5 Months Until UCAT

5 Months Until UCAT

7 months ago by Chris

Five months until the UCAT testing period begins! Are you feeling overwhelmed or stressed by your workload this year? Stress is a common problem that affects all of us at some point in our lives, but is stress bad for you?

According to Kelly McGonigal stress isn’t the problem, it’s the mind’s negative response to stress that’s the problem. McGonigal explains that we need to change our minds about stress, so that we can change our body’s response to stress. How? This blog summarises the key points.


How you think can transform your experience of stress

When you get stressed, your heart may pound, you may breathe faster and break into a sweat.  These are normally interpreted as physical signs of anxiety, and that you’re not coping well with the pressure. However, they can also be signs that your body is being energized and is preparing you to meet the challenge.  Your pounding heart is preparing you for action and your faster breathing is getting oxygen to your brain. Viewed this way, you can see the so called ‘stress responses’ of your body is actually helping you rise to the challenge.

When people can view their stress response as helpful for their performance, they are less stressed and more confident. Therefore, how you think about stress matters. The goal is not to try to get rid of stress but to become better at managing stress. When you view stress positively, your body believes you and your stress response becomes more adaptive.


How you act can transform your experience of stress

Another positive aspect of stress is that it makes you social. Oxytocin is a neuro hormone that fine tunes your brain’s social instincts. Your pituitary gland produces it as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as adrenaline. Oxytocin motivates you to do things that strengthen close relationships. It enhances your empathy. It makes you want to support the people you care about and to seek support from people who care about you.

Oxytocin doesn’t only act on your brain, it acts on your body.  It protects the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. Your heart has receptors for oxytocin, which helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage.

These physical benefits of oxytocin are enhanced by social contact and social support. When you reach out to others to either seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you recover faster from stress. Your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience. That mechanism is human connection.

A study of 1000 people showed that every major life-stress-experience increased the risk of dying by 30%. However, those who spent time caring for others showed no stress-related increase in dying.  Caring created resilience.

The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress.  When you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.  You can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges and you’re remembering that you don’t have to face them alone.



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